Deer in Headlights



Here is a great article that discusses how to transition students from what this Faculty Focus article calls blank stares, but I like to call “deer in headlights” to fully engaged students.

When I first started teaching, I experienced a series of emotions when confronted with the blank stare – discomfort, disappointment, confusion, shock, frustration…If you paid to come to school, why are you not engaged? Why didn’t you do your homework? Why can’t you answer the question I just asked you?

The article describes the disparity between the teacher’s expectation of a student’s attention to lecture and their actual attention – dubbed civil attention. It’s defined as “creating the appearance of paying attention.” They’re faking it! It only takes asking a few questions throughout a lecture to realize they really are faking it!

The article considers teachers as enablers in this behavior with the justification that we don’t want to make the introverted students uncomfortable and we avoiding calling on students that are not paying attention.

I like the strategies listed in the article that recommend:

  • discussion questions for reading assignments
  • think-pair-share for the shy students
  • an occasional quiz

Each are examples of how we can create interactive learning. If we want our students to be less passive and more engaged, we should develop more engaging classrooms.

Jay Howard, P. (2016, 02 8). Class Discussion: From Blank Stares to True Engagement. Retrieved 02 14, 2016, from Faculty Focus:


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